Bollywood and its 'red light' detour

Bollywood and its 'red light' detour

Begum Jaan has failed to set the box office on fire, despite the restrained performance by Vidya Balan.
Srijit Mukherji's Hindi remake of Bengali film 'Rajakahini' tells the story of 11 prostitutes living in a brothel on the border of the country, and who refuse to part ways during the country's Partition. Begum Jaan may have failed to scorch the box office, but it does bring to mind several more of its genre that have set the registers ringing over the last five decades. Here's the lowdown.

Sadhna (1958)

Directed by B R Chopra, this Vyjanthimala starrer revolved around the rehabilitation of prostitutes, at the time a controversial topic. The love story of a prostitute and a professor, the film also questioned society's notions about prostitution.The film grossed Rs 1,60,00,000 at the time, making it a top grosser

Pakeezaah (1972)

Set in Lucknow at the turn of the 20th century, 'Pakeezaah' told the story of a nautch-girl who is born to delight others, but whose restless soul cannot suppress her surging desire - 'to love and be loved'. 'Pakeezaah' was touted as a tribute to Meena Kumari by filmmaker Kamal Amrohi just as 'Taj Mahal' had been an ode to Mumtaz . The film took a whopping 16 years to complete and released around the time Meena Kumari breathed her last. The film was declared a blockbuster hit and also hailed as a classic.

Umrao Jaan (1981)

Based on a 1905 novel 'Umrao Jaan Ada', this movie is the story of a Lucknow courtesan of the same name. Directed by Muzzafar Ali, this film boasted an ensemble cast (Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar) that still could not do much at the box office but rocked the National awards with leading lady Rekha, playback singer Asha Bhosle and music director Khayyam picking up honours. Several songs from the film are considered classics in Bollywood: "Dil cheez kya hai", "Justuju Jiski Thi", "In ankhon ki masti", and "Yeh kya jagah hai doston".The film was remade in 2006 by J P Dutta with Aishwarya Rai playing the lead but that one turned out to be a damp squib at the box office .

Mandi (1983)

As the name suggests ( 'mandi' means market in Hindi) the film takes pot shots at soul trading politicians pitted against prostitutes over a land issue. The film is a satire on politics and prostitution based on an Urdu short story by Ghulam Abbas. Starring Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, this Shyam Benegal movie was invited to various film festivals including Indian Panorama at Filmostav, Bombay 1984, the Los Angeles Exposition (FILMEX), the Hong Kong International Film Festival 1984, and the London Film Festival 1983. Apparently, to play the role of the brothel's 'madam', Shabana Azmi put on 23 kgs for this movie.

Chandni Bar (2001)

Piercing through Mumbai 's underbelly, this Madhur Bhandarkar film unravels the nexus of underworld dance bars and prostitution. This Tabu starrer fetched her her second national award as well as a National award for best supporting actor to Ananya Khare .